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Overcoming Transit Information Barriers


This is part of a series of Headways Blog posts about VTA’s Next Network Project, which will redesign VTA’s transit network.

We’ve spent a lot of time talking about increasing transit ridership by increasing frequencies, extending hours of operation and the design of the transit network, but one often-overlooked element of improving transit ridership and the rider experience is overcoming information barriers. 

A transit rider or potential transit rider needs to know several things before they can be confident that transit will get them where they want to go.  This information can be broken down into multiple stages:

Pre-trip – Before deciding to make a trip on transit, a rider must know where the route goes, where it stops (both pick up and drop off), when the route operates (frequency and hours of the day) and the correct side of the street or train platform to catch the bus/train.

At the transit stop – The rider relies on the flag signs to know they are at the right stop and the head signs on the bus/train to confirm that they are boarding the right vehicle.

Onboard – The rider needs to be aware when their destination is near.  This requires familiarity with the local area, reliance on a GPS-enabled smart phone or help from the driver as few VTA routes announce upcoming stops.

Exiting – Upon exiting, the rider needs to orient themselves, figure out how to get to their transfer or destination and where they should catch the bus/train for their return trip.

If there is uncertainty about any of these: which route to take, when to go, when to get off the bus/train, where to go after exiting and whether the service will be in operation to take them back home, a rider or potential rider may decide to find another way to make the trip or may not make the trip at all.  If transit information is difficult to find or understand, a potential rider is less likely to consider transit as a travel option. For these reasons, it is very important that transit information be easy to find, be easy to use and convey all the information that a rider needs.
​With a potentially large redesign of the VTA transit network coming in 2017, VTA has an opportunity to update route maps, schedules, onboard information and online information.  We’ve been looking at how other agencies design their transit information and have seen some things that we like. 

For example, compare portions of the transit maps for VTA’s Route 22 and LA Metro’s Orange Line below.  The underlying street grid and landmarks on the LA Metro map provide context and make it easier to know where to exit the bus to get to destinations off the corridor.  VTA’s map only shows cross streets that have VTA transit routes on them.  The LA Metro map can be a tool to help the rider plan the trip, know when their bus stop is approaching and help orient themselves once they arrive at their destination in ways that the VTA map cannot.


How can we improve transit information?  Have you found VTA transit information to be difficult to find, use or has let you down?  Have you seen something that other transit agencies do that VTA should emulate? Let us know in the comments below. 

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